Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
No matter how many gadgets you have, how much food and water you have, how ultimate your bug out bag or vehicle is, there is one basic fact of life that we all have to deal with… Everybody poops. (And urinates, for that matter).
During normal times, a person finds comfort and privacy by retreating to the nearest restroom to take care of their business. After a few minutes, their business is completed and a flush later, maybe two, the problem is out of sight.
However, after some SHTF event (take your pick), indoor plumbing may not be an option for a lot of people. If utilities are not kept online, that means no water pressure for those tied into a city or town water line. No water pressure means you won’t be able to flush your business down the toilet.
Using a bucket of water to fill a toilet may work for a while, but it is not a long-term solution. Additionally, in this type of situation, water may be a precious resource that is hard to come by, and using it to flush a toilet may not be the best way to use it.
Due to the lack of water flowing through sewage pipes, it is likely that they will clog and become backed up. When this happens, you are going to need to find another restroom to use. Luckily, there are several alternative methods for dealing with human waste that don’t involve modern plumbing.
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Options For Dealing With Human Waste
Dry Flush Toilet
A dry flush toilet may provide some comfort to the user because it looks very similar to a regular toilet. The difference is that it utilizes a battery pack, blower fan, and foil liners to seal up waste.
After going number one or number two, a button is pressed. The fan will then kick in and seal the waste within the foil liner and at the same time, a new liner is pulled down for the next user.
- Easy to use
- Looks just like a regular toilet
- Low to no odor
- Waste is conveniently “bagged up”
- No water required
- A good option for urban dwellers
- Requires access to a power source
- Needs refill liners
- The bagged waste still needs to be disposed of
- Potential for mechanical failure
Although you can purchase a composting toilet, you can also make your own, which is very affordable because all that is required is a container, like a five-gallon bucket, and some natural medium to place in the container. Sawdust is a common medium to use, although some mosses, pine needles, leaves, grasses, or even soil can be used as substitutes.
A layer of the medium is put on the bottom of the container and after going number one or number two, a thin layer of medium is placed on top of the waste.
Five-gallon buckets are a common container to use due to their affordability, size, weight, ease of mobility, carry handle, and they come with a lid to help keep odors contained.
The best thing about using this method is that it begins the composting process of the waste and can be used later in gardens. When using the composting toilet method the user will want to invest in several extra containers or buckets so that the full container can be immediately replaced with a clean new one.
- Easy to use
- Creates rich compost that can be used in soil
- Requires an area where a composting pile can be setup
- A platform may need to be built over the container to give the user a more comfortable seat
- Not a great option for some urban dwellers
A cathole is a very common method among campers, hikers, hunters, fishermen, or anyone in the outdoors, for disposing of human waste or dirty water.
The first step in creating a cathole is choosing a good location. Dig a hole a few hundred feet away from a water source to avoid contaminating it. Also, avoid digging the hole in heavily trafficked areas that are visited by humans or animals, so stay away from game trails and paths. Pick a spot that receives a good amount of sunlight that looks to have fertile soil. This will help in the decomposition of the waste.
To create a cathole, use a shovel or a stick to dig a hole in the ground that measures approximately eight inches wide by eight inches deep. You don’t want the hole to be too deep as the waste may not decompose as quickly and you don’t want it to be too shallow as then it can be easily disturbed.
Once the hole is dug, place the waste inside and cover it with the dirt that was removed. Biodegradable toilet paper can be placed in the hole with the waste but items like wet wipes should be sealed in a container and disposed of elsewhere.
- Incredibly easy to make
- A great option for when you are on the move
- Not a great option for urban dwellers or in areas where the ground is frozen
A latrine is basically the big brother of a cathole. With a latrine, a larger hole is dug in width, length, and depth. There isn’t a universal size for a latrine as the size of the hole or trench used will depend on the number of people it needs to accommodate or how long you plan on being in one spot.
But the principles for digging one are the same for digging a cathole. First, choose your location by staying away from water sources (which includes wells) Also avoid sloped areas that receive water runoff to avoid the contents of the latrine from being washed away.
The soil that is taken out of the ground should be left nearby so that it can easily be shoveled over the waste after each use. This will help to keep foul odors at a minimum. Biodegradable wipes can be placed into the hole but everything else should be sealed up and disposed of elsewhere.
Since a latrine is meant to be used for longer periods, it might be worth the effort to construct a rudimentary platform or tripod chair over the hole. This will provide a bit of comfort and stability to whoever uses it. For example, the “Woodsman’s Throne.” (See the video below.)
- Can accommodate large groups of people
- Can be used more than once
- Simple design
- Can be recreated in different locations
- Takes time and effort to create
- Can be smelly
Burning feces is an option, but it is not the most practical in a SHTF situation. Feces has quite a bit of moisture in it so it doesn’t burn well when it is fresh. The United States military has burned the waste from soldiers in the past, but it required the use of diesel fuel and gasoline to complete the job. This method creates a lot of harmful, smelly, black smoke, and relies on the use of fuel which may be in short supply.
High-temperature furnaces have also been utilized in areas, sometimes remote areas, as a means of getting rid of human waste. This method requires quite a bit of energy or fuel, which again may be in short supply.
One of the best ways to burn feces is to create patties or bricks and allow them to dry out. Once the waste is dry, it will burn much easier and without the odor. Of course, when the SHTF you may not have the time to wait for it to dry out.
- Can eliminate waste quicker than other methods
- Dried waste bricks can be used as heating fuel
- Requires the use of fuel or energy during a time when those resources may be limited
- Odor or smoke can give away positions
- Large amounts of waste will take a long time to burn
If none of the above are viable options, then you can always seal up human waste in bags or containers to be dealt with at a later date. Whatever vessel you use, be sure that it is durable and has a good seal.
If you’re going to go this route, stock up on some biodegradable trash bags, that way you can bury them.
No matter how you look at it, an emergency plan needs to include a method for dealing with human waste. It doesn’t matter if you are in a million-dollar bunker, an apartment, a house, or walking through the backcountry—the production of human waste will need to be dealt with and dealt with frequently.
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